Minister Says Thessaloniki Metro System Corruption-Plagued


Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis. Photo: Eurokinissi/Fani Tripsani

Just after the appointment of the father of a prominent Greek Cabinet member to head Thessaloniki’s Urban Transportation Organisation (OASTh), a top Greek minister said the system has been rife with corruption over contracts for years.

“The waste in rigged or haphazard tenders in OASTh has already stopped. We will reveal all this in the coming days. Whatever they do, the de-privatization of OASTh has been completed,” Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis said in a shot at previous governments before the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition took over in January of 2015.

“OASTh’s assets belong to the Greek people and the Greek state, and its cleanup will take place. Everything that happened in the past 60 years in OASTh, in Thessaloniki, by whom and who covered for them will be revealed,” he told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), as he promised to reveal details but didn’t say when.

He said the ministry will soon publish information exposing the waste and corruption he claimed was rampant in the system, after rival political parties blasted the naming of Stelios Pappas, father of Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, to oversee the system although he has no experience in transportation systems.

OASTH oversees the operations of 604 buses, the only means of public transport in Greece’s second-largest city until a metro now under construction is completed, now scheduled for completion in 2020.

Asked by ANA on a recent ruling by the Council of State (CoS) on the company which was reported it would slow down the changes in OASTh, the minister said it actually “fully vindicates” the Greek government and “dismisses all the appeals made by OASTh’s old shareholders”.

“What was attempted, once again, by some media that support New Democracy – they are ND’s press office- fell flat,” he added.

Nikos Pappas was former Minister of State before being switched to his current position after his failed attempt, with Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, to cut the number of private TV licenses to four in a bid critics said was designed to muzzle the media and quell dissent over the government’s reneging on anti-austerity promises.

In a statement, Spirtzis said appointment would help make urban transport more efficient without explaining how Pappas, an economist, would do that.

Spirtzis didn’t say if he was ordered to make the appointment but praised Pappas as an “historic member” of the Left “with great experience in economics,” if not in transport. It also wasn’t reported whether he will work in Thessaloniki.

The news set off outrage on social media and charges of nepotism – a practice carried on by all Greek governments.